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Arora web browser review

A simple cross-platform web browser based on the WebKit web browser engine, which has a small memory footprint, but is still undergoing heavy development…

arora_webkit_screenshot
Pros:
Lightweight web browser that works on just about any platform and on slow hardware
Cons:
It doesn’t have that many features yet. It’s still in the early stages of development

Arora is a simple and lightweight cross-platform web browser based on the WebKit web browser engine, which has a small memory footprint. It can do some things that the more sophisticated web browsers can do. WebKit is also the name of the Mac OS X system framework version of the engine that’s used by Safari, Dashboard, Mail and many other OS X applications. WebKit is a browser engine which was originally forked from KHTML and is now developed further by Apple, Nokia, Adobe, Trolltech and others. There is also co-operation going on between KHTML and WebKit, but only to a certain extent. The WebKit developers value real-world web compatibility, standards compliance, stability, performance, security, portability, usability and relative ease of understanding. It is also an essential part of their project that they can modify the code – also referred to as hackability. WebKit uses BSD- style and LGPL licences in order to make sure that the source code will remain freely available. As of Qt 4.4, WebKit is part of Qt and therefore every Qt application can take advantage of WebKit. Qt is produced by Trolltech, which is owned by Nokia. Qt is part of every KDE application, but KDE applications have been using KHTML for quite some time. The demonstration browser of Qt 4.4 was shipped with the release to show what the engine can actually do. The WebKit code used is directly developed in the WebKit trunk. The Arora browser is under heavy development, which means that you can’t really compare it with other browsers such as Firefox, SeaMonkey or Internet Explorer. However, the GNU/Linux version that was tested for this review (v0.10.1) was extremely stable and very usable: no problems for someone who just wants to use a web browser. You could possibly compare it with similar open source browsers like Galeon, Epiphany or Midori. Flash plug-ins were added into Arora recently – more or less essential for browsing any web page. The browser has a very fast startup and integration with desktop environments. There is a smart location bar along with session management. The privacy mode may or may not be useful for the user. A nice feature is the flexible search engine management. Like most browsers, there is a download manager. The built-in Web Inspector tools are helpful for web developers and the browser is available in 30 languages. If you want to have a go at hacking on some code in a web browser, this project might be for you. Have a look at the Arora wiki on the Arora website and click on the link about contributing to the project. You can also go to #arora on irc.freenode.org and join in with everyone there.

Verdict: 4/5
Since it is still under heavy development, the Arora web browser is lacking in features, although it does at least now have built-in Flash plug-ins. It’s a decent lightweight browser that integrates well with desktop environments, while the Web Inspector tools are useful for web developers.
Richard Ibbotson

This article originally appeared in issue 82 of Linux User & Developer magazine.

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